There is no doubt that live performances are an exhilarating experience but air quality in crowded venues, post pandemic, has led to performers and audiences staying away. Venues, with their ventilation not up to new standards, need to take extra steps to ensure indoor gatherings don’t become super-spreader events.
With venues (and the government) not taking ownership of air quality, we share some tips and case studies of what we can do to lobby for change. Exciting things are happening with music and clean air – read on…
The Anchoress Breathes Clean Air on Stage with our Blast Mini Air Purifiers
The Anchoress, a clinically vulnerable performer known for her captivating performances and her unique brand of art-pop, has proactively created a safer stage environment to enable live performances after a 3 year hiatus. After reaching out to the Twitterverse for advice, The Anchoress approached Smart Air UK.
Two Blast Mini air purifiers were propped up on amp stands and pointed towards The Anchoress on stage. Rather than acting as a whole venue air cleaner, the Blast Minis provided a personal stream of filtered air – think QT3s on speed! Due to the powerful fan and the nature of air mixing, the Blast Mini purifiers still cleaned the air for the audience, just slowly. The closer you are to the purifiers, the cleaner the air will be.
The Anchoress purchased this herself, but this should be a venue expense. This way, both performers and audiences can benefit equally from cleaner, filtered air.
Being small(ish) and on wheels, the Blast Mini air purifiers were used during rehearsals and on tour, travelling from venue to venue up and down the country.
Music Lovers in Chicago Create a Clean Air Club
A group of Chicagoans, keen to see the music and arts scene revived after the pandemic, launched the Clean Air Club. They believe that focusing on indoor air quality is key to the long term health of a thriving creative scene.
They do this in two ways:
Encouraging venues to participate in the Clean Air Club
If the badge is on display, it means that the space (including green rooms and backstage where possible) has at least one HEPA air purifier running to reduce the number of airborne pathogens in the room.
They encourage venues to aim for 6 air changes per hour in line with ASHRAE standards.
Fundraise to purchase air purifiers that can be loaned out
The Clean Air Club will entirely fund the purchase of air purifiers appropriate to the venue space, knowing that the arts industry often runs on slim margins.
Funding for this is obtained through external grants, air purifier donations, and crowd-funding.
If you want to set up something similar, they share how they managed to achieve this in six weeks!
Clean Air Forum in Australia may Pave the Way for Other Countries to Follow
In a ground-breaking meeting to discuss indoor air quality by experts in public health, science and building design, it was identified that there are a lot of ‘low hanging fruit’ that can be implemented at little cost and effort.
One of these is portable filtration.
Venues can invest in portable filtration and make back their costs over the year through a small increase in hire charges. Venue organisers can also invest in filtration and recoup their cost by a slight increase in ticket prices.
Small Tokens at Events can Make a Big Difference
We learned that the @grandchallenges event hosted by UCL (University College London) provided a portable QT3 air purifier on the speaker podium and a conference swag bag with a variety of N95 face masks.
Large Spaces can Benefit from Portable Filtration
Our powerful commercial air purifiers, the Blast and the Blast Mini, are amongst the quietest air purifiers in the market. Designed for large spaces (130m2 and 85m2 respectively), multiple units can be positioned around the room.
While still not 100% risk free if you are sitting in the middle of the room next to someone with COVID, the venue has at least taken affordable steps to mitigate the risk as much as possible.
Why Should Venues, Event Organisers and Performers Care about Clean Air?
Attendance levels have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels and crowded indoor spaces are still seen as potential superspreader spaces. Here are some reasons why they should care:
- By not publishing or focusing on air quality, venues are actively excluding the clinically vulnerable and run the risk of being accused of ableism
- Portable filtration could result in larger attendance levels – everyone wants to get back to normal but for some, the new ‘normal’ means choosing to risk their health
- Monitoring the air could provide surprising results. Venues may actually be OK in terms of ventilation but being afraid of what might be found is leading to venue owners burying their heads in the sand
- We anticipate that the question of air quality in venues will become more frequent
- Smaller artists make little money (if any) from tours. Show cancellations through sickness are generally not covered by insurance, so taking steps to ensure a clean air rehearsal space in the run up to a tour could help
Organising an Event? Questions You Should Ask
- Does the venue have fresh air or recirculation HVAC? Avoid venues with a closed-circuit HVAC system that does not introduce outside air
- Does the venue use HEPA filtration (or any filtration beyond keeping dust out of the mechanics)?
- Does the venue monitor humidity and CO2 levels, if so, what is it in a crowded space?
- Does the venue have portable filtration in smaller rehearsal/dressing rooms?
- Do the rehearsal rooms have access to outside windows/doors so the air in these rooms can be flushed out from time to time
- Does the venue provide portable air filters that can be spread out across the room? If not, can they be hired in for events?
Please ask these questions at all venues considered. If you choose one because it has better air quality, let the other venues know. This way, venues can learn that there is a demand for clean air!
If you are looking at portable filters yourself for your event, we recommend checking the clean air you are getting when the speed is set at noise levels below 50dBA. On top speed, most air purifiers are too noisy and on lower speeds, they don’t always generate enough clean air.
Attending an Event? Things You Can Do
I recently attended a seminar in a largish room packed with 6 tables of 8 and two doors at the front and back, both of which were closed. It didn’t take long for my monitor to reach levels of up to 3,000ppm+. Once the organisers were told, both doors were opened and CO2 levels settled at 1200ppm (still high but more manageable given the number of attendees). After lunch, I noticed the venue had an air purifier tucked away in the corner of the room so I switched it on full, but it was loud!
Here is what you can do if you are attending an event:
- Wearing an N95 mask remains the best form of protection
- If you have a CO2 monitor, take it with you and alert the organisers when levels are high
- Position yourself next to an open window or door as there will be more air movement in these spaces
- Take a portable air purifier like the QT3 and point it towards your face
- Do look around for air purifiers and if you see one, make sure it is switched on. Sometimes, purifiers are purchased for events and left at the venue